Monday, February 27, 2012

So Long and Goodbye: My February Cancer Peep

Nicole Sheriff

For the first month following my bone marrow transplant I dreamed about food: fast food I saw on commercials, dishes my mom had previously prepared, breakfast cereal, forbidden grapes from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Everything. This was a consequence of my inability to eat and relentless famishment that ensued.

There was one item I could consume: a cherry ICEE that my mom bought me each morning from the hospital lobby. I don’t know if it was the chill, texture or consistency, but for whatever reason it stayed down. This brought me hope upon waking from my food nightmares, encouragement to begin eating actual grapes, and optimism for a future full of cherry ICEEs and much more.

Five years later I returned to the hospital for one final checkup. On my way out I walked through the hospital lobby, toward the ICEE machine for one last chill, to provide optimism for my future life void of cancer. But the machine was gone, so I kept walking, past the gift shop, through the revolving door and into the radiant sunshine outside, wishing the youngsters upstairs could benefit from ICEEs as I had.

Nicole Sheriff loved ICEEs, too. Ten years ago, at thirteen years old, Nicole was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, the same cancer I had. Unlike mine, her disease had spread: from her spine to her ankle, arm and lung. She received intense treatment, but wouldn’t allow herself to become a victim. She persevered, continuing to play field hockey and basketball, and attend school.

Nicole found ICEEs one of the few things she could consume, and fundraised through her field hockey team to help purchase ICEE machines for pediatric cancer hospitals. Her wish was that every hospital that treats pediatric cancer have a machine, and to financially support families of those patients. Her wish became her legacy with the inception of The Angel 34 Foundation which has now raised over $2.5 million. Nicole’s mission for Angel 34 was for every child to have his or her own angel during the cancer battle.

Nicole lost her battle in 2004, at age 15. I met Nicole’s parents last week when I spoke at the Angel 34 silent auction charity event. Her father, Doug Sheriff, is the President of the non-profit, and receives no payment for his effort. The event was not only a fun party, but also raised over $5,000. Doug and his wife, Linda, were a pleasure to meet, and hearing Nicole’s story was uplifting. Whereas I shunned the cancer world as a patient, Nicole inspired and encouraged so many. Through her foundation, she continues to do so.

Information about The Angel 34 Foundation, including how to make a donation, can be found on the website:
Cancer patient Nicole Sheriff with Joe Paterno